Pene Gordon, founder and chairman of the charity, explains why she started the Ragalla Aid Project
A visit to Sri Lanka
In 1984, after 21 years away from Sri Lanka, I returned to meet up with some old friends who had been working for my parents. The now old lady who had been my Nanny and the driver, who worked for my Father. Both now retired and almost destitute needed help. I started sending out British postal orders which were acceptable in Sri Lanka.
The return visit
In 1994, ten years later I visited again and found the situation for them had not improved and now the driver needed a house too as he had nowhere to live and another man came on the scene needing a home.
1997, after a family visit, was the year that I realised I really needed to do something for these people and that for me it had become ‘PAYBACK’ time for all the good years I had spent in Sri Lanka, or Ceylon as it was then, as a child.
Ragalla Aid Project is launched
In the August of that year, I obtained a loan to buy two houses and the Project was launched under the name of Ragalla Aid Project. Ragalla being the area in which I had lived, some 30 minutes out of Nuwara Eliya.
Amazingly the loan was paid back in 21 weeks and the Project went into 1998 free of debt.
The early years
Funds were going out to old retainers of tea-planting friends via British Postal orders and the Project started to put some equipment and educational toys into two schools and four crèches on a tea estate. We also began to help some A level students with their fees.
In 1999 Waltham Chase Methodist Church helped with the sponsoring of some elderly Grannies in Convents.
In 2000 we were asked to take on the sponsorship of a Day Care Centre near Bandarawela. We thought we would try for 10 sponsors out of the 36 children and in no time had full sponsorship for them all. This was the first big venture and since then we have been able to help many more. The Colombo Centre for Special Education was another new venture.
A great event in 2000 was that on January 27th Ragalla Aid Project became a registered Charity.
In 2003 on a visit to Trincomalee, we found four feeding centres unable to feed the children in their care, and were able to take these on. The Project has really expanded in this area, and now has seven feeding centres, and an interest in two care homes one for girls and one for boys.
Over the years the Project has helped three young men go to University and many A level Students. We are still caring for four families with mentally disabled members. Several homes have been built or extended or had roofs redone. We have set up market gardening and encouraged sewing with sewing machines as a family income.
The Tsuami hits
The Project was busy and working well when at the end of 2004 the tsunami flooded in and changed many things.
Immediate help was given in Galle and Trincomalee to house folk and to set them going again. Now in the later aftermath 11 houses have been built, 2 care homes are well on their way to completion, 2 feeding centre have opened in February 2006 and many smaller projects undertaken to help in small but significant ways.
All along the way families have been supported too. A family where the Father committed suicide, another where the Father was killed in a hit & run accident. A Mother and four year old boy whose Father has abandoned them and another little girl, badly burned in a fire after her Father set fire to the house, and the Mother died.
1997 to 2006 and the Project has been going nearly 9 years. We are very proud of what we have achieved during this time. We thank all the folk who have helped us in many different ways and look forward to your support for the future of the people to whom we are reaching out.
Founder and Chairman